At the very outset, I would like to apologise for even using the word review in this post. I do not think I am qualified enough to judge the merits and technicalities of the visual delight named Asha Jaowar Majhe (Labour of Love).
This dialogue-less film by Aditya Bikram Sengupta is definitely the best film from West Bengal since Antaheen. The impact of the film is best felt when you leave the theatre, soaking in the silence and the cacophony of the crowd outside hits you.
Our daily lives have become so fast-paced and routinely monotonous that we have forgotten how to step back, relax and enjoy the romanticism in the drudgery of the mundane. Or else, why would the two minute long scene of the sunset (with the sound of the Puja at a temple in the background) make you skip a heartbeat? Or the ecstasy when the entire screen is filled with mung dal or white grains of rice?
I am reminded of Charulata. My favourite of all the Satyajit Ray’s films opens with a long sequence of Charu’s loneliness. Two and a half pages of lyrical beauty by Tagore was so effortlessly transcended to the silver screen by Ray… Aditya Bikram Sengupta achieves the same feat, albeit for 120 odd minutes.
The director’s attention to detail is worth applauding. Simplicity is the foundation on which this castle is built. This is just a day from the life of a couple, who work in shifts. While the film has no dialogues, the cacophony of city as the background score only empowers the silence of the characters. The scenes are long, often close-ups, but are conceived so beautifully that you are left wondering how despite following the similar routine everyday, these small details never crossed your mind as important. So much so that your faith in a relationship will be emboldened by a simple missed call.
I have already mentioned the sunset scene. Such cinematic brilliance is strewn all over the entire length of the film. Take example of the wife walking towards the tram stop through the alleys of north Kolkata. The pace of her gait was only matched by the increasing rhythm of the national anthem, from some school in the neighbourhood. Or that scene where changing hues of the sky around a tram pole indicate how time flies – with a political speech as background score.
Labour of Love is actually a celebration of simplicity. This is a family of two lower middle class people, who earn not more than eight thousand rupees a month. But the joy of salary-day is surely one of indulgence. Even a simple shot where the camera is focused on the cracks on a staircase and the wife just passes by as the radio in a neighbouring house plays ‘Tumi Je Amar’ will take your breath away.
Obviously, a film of this stature requires actors of might. No words are required for explaining the brilliance of Ritwik Chakraborty. Shabdo no longer is his best film, Labour of Love is. And Basabdutta… I was her fan since ‘Boyei Gelo’ aired on TV. She is an immensely talented actor who has miles to go. There is a serenity in her eyes which will bowl you over.
As the end credits roll with Ustad Bismillah Khan’s immortal shehnai playing Raag Tilak Khamod, you will surely want to step back, pause and reflect. Life is beautiful.
My Rating 5/5 stars
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P.S. – Wish the audience in India is more mature. Keeping a phone on silent mode, not making small talk while watching a film where finesse lies in details is too hard for some idiots! They should watch Bajrangi instead!